Peter John Windbacher, the youngest of the three children of John F. and Mary E. (Puljung) Windbacher, was born on March 23, 1914, in Chicago, Illinois. He attended 0. A. Thorpe Grammar School and Lane Technical High School in Chicago. He then worked in the Chicago area until he was called to duty during World War II and served as a radio operator in the Air Force (1942-45) in North Africa, Corsica and Italy. His war experience drew him closer to God and when he returned to the United States he had already made a decision to become a priest.
He entered the Dominican novitiate at St. Thomas Aquinas Priory, River Forest, Illinois, on June 24, 1947, and was given the religious name of Ambrose. He made his first profession of vows on June 25, 1948, and immediately began his philosophical studies there at the Pontifical Faculty of Philosophy in River Forest. Three years later he made his solemn profession on June 25, 1951, and was transferred to St. Rose of Lima Priory, Dubuque, Iowa, for his theological studies (1951-55). Bishop Loras Lane, auxiliary bishop of Dubuque, ordained him a priest there on May 27, 1954.
Father Windbacher was assigned to the Province’s Vicariate in Nigeria, his first and only assignment. He began his duties as an associate pastor at St. Dominic Parish, Yaba, Lagos, in 1955. During this time he served first as assistant to the Novice Master for Cooperator Brothers (1964-65) and then as Novice Master (1965-68). Soon he was appointed vocation director for the Vicariate (1966-72) and was responsible for bringing many of the present Nigerians into the Order. In September of 1972 he was appointed pastor and superior of St. Dominic Parish where he served until May of 1975 when he was elected Vicar Provincial. He served two terms as major superior, finishing this ministry to the vicariate in 1983, and also served as the secretary for 26 Major Religious Orders of Men in Nigeria during this time.
Upon completion of his time as Vicar Provincial Father Windbacher returned to his original ministry as associate pastor at St. Dominic Parish in Yaba, always endeavoring to foster vocations for his beloved Nigeria. He was known affectionately to the parishioners as “Papa Amby.” When the vicariate was officially erected as an independent vice-province under the patronage of St. Joseph in Worker on April 2, 1985, his name was at the top of the list of those Dominicans who were to be affiliated to the new vice-province. In 1994 he transfiliated back to the Province of St. Albert the Great, but remained assigned to the Province of St. Joseph the Worker.
While in the United States in the late summer of 2001 to visit his sister, Sr. Mary Cephas O.P., he suffered a stroke and required hospitalization and rehabilitation. His one desire was to return to Nigeria and to die there. Although it seemed as though he were making sufficient progress to make the return trip to Nigeria, his condition worsened and he was hospitalized on October 7, 2001. Early on the morning of October 8 he died at Oak Park Hospital, Oak Park, Illinois. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Thomas Aquinas Priory, River Forest, Illinois, on October 10 and at the request of the Province of St. Joseph the Worker the remains of Father Windbacher were returned to Nigeria on October 23-24. Because of the petitions of the people, Archbishop Anthony Okogie of Lagos, granted permission to bury Father Windbacher on the St. Dominic Church compound. A wake began on November 20 and continued through the night until the funeral Mass was celebrated on the morning of November 21, 2001. Burial was on the compound of St. Dominic Church, Yaba, Lagos State, Nigeria. See also Ambrose’s Page.
From the “Lives of Deceased Brothers” page on the Web site of the Dominican Friars Province of St. Joseph the Worker (Nigeria and Ghana).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from the “Lives of Deceased Brothers” page on the Web site of Dominican Friars Province of St. Joseph the Worker (Nigeria and Ghana). All rights reserved.